What is ‘Democratic socialism’? Bernie Sanders’ political ideology explained

Bernie Sanders calls Democratic socialism a 'vibrant democracy'
Bernie Sanders calls Democratic socialism a ‘vibrant democracy’

Once largely considered “taboo” and a “dirty word,” socialism — particularly, Democratic socialism — has seemingly started to trickle into the political mainstream in recent years, thanks, in part, to self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

An August 2018 Gallup poll found Democrats had a “more positive image” of socialism than of capitalism, with 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they had a positive view of socialism compared to 47 percent who had a positive view of capitalism.

Sanders will join Fox News Channel for a town hall co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on Monday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. ET in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“Views of socialism among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are particularly important in the current political environment because many observers have claimed the Democratic Party is turning in more of a socialist direction,” Gallup noted at the time.

Socialism — a term that first hatched in the early 19th century, per The Washington Post — has “meant different things to different people in different times and places, while maintaining a stable core of themes and objectives: social (as opposed to private) control of the means of production, and of all the societal, humanitarian and political-economic changes that entails, especially where the freedom and autonomy of working people are concerned,” Opinion columnist Elizabeth Bruenig wrote in August 2018.

But what exactly does it mean to be a Democratic socialist? And how have Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders and other politicians who align with the political philosophy describe its meaning to them?

Read on for a brief look Democratic socialism.

First, what is Democratic socialism?

Democratic socialism pulls from both Democracy and socialism, per the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) website. Political theorist and activist Michael Harrington helped form the DSA in 1982.

“Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically — to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few,” the group states, noting to achieve a more “just society” many “structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.”

Democratic socialists favor decentralization; they don’t necessarily want to create “an all-powerful government bureaucracy” but are not in favor of “big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either,” reads the website.

Those who align with the political ideology typically support pro-union politics, tuition-free public universities, universal healthcare and using tax money from the wealthy to fund social welfare programs, among other ideas, reported TIME in October 2018.

“[What they want] is not a violent overthrow of capitalism, but working within the system through legal and peaceful means [such as] electoral and social movements,” Maurice Isserman, a…

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